We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

There is nothing new under the sun

“What has been will be again,” as it says in Ecclesiastes, “what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Yesterday – to my shame I did not spot it until today – the Times reprinted a letter to the editor that was a century old to the day. I wish I could say that it was merely of historical interest.

From The Times July 15, 1919

To the Editor of The Times

Sir, Will you permit an elderly man, who is not a politician nor a public character, but merely an individual among millions of honest, sober persons whose liberty is attacked by a moral tyranny, to state an opinion with regard to the crusade against moderate drinkers? It is not needed even in the cause of morality. When I was a child excess in drinking was patent in every class of society. Now, in my wide circle, I do not know of one man or woman who is ever seen “under the influence of liquor”. Why not leave the process of moderation, so marked within 60 years, to pursue its normal course? It is untrue to say that a reasonable use of alcohol is injurious to mind, body or morality. My father, whose life was one of intense intellectual application, and who died from an accident in his 79th year, was the most rigidly conscientious evangelical I have ever known. He would have been astonished to learn that his claret and water at his midday meal, and his glass of Constantia at bedtime, were either sinful in themselves or provocative to sin in others.

There is no blessing upon those who invent offences for the pleasure of giving pain and who lay burdens on the liberty of others. We have seen attempts by the fantastically righteous to condemn those who eat meat, who go to see plays, who take walks on Sundays. The campaign against the sober use of wine and beer is on a footing with these efforts, and should be treated as they have been. Already tobacco is being forbidden to the clergy! The fact that Americans are leading the campaign should be regarded with alarm. We do not express an opinion, much less organize propaganda, against “dryness” in the United States. It is not for us to interfere in their domestic business. If Englishmen went round America urging Americans to defy their own laws and revolt against their customs, we should be very properly indignant. Let crusading Americans be taught the same reticence.

The propagandist teetotaler is active and unscrupulous. He fights with all weapons, whether they are clean or no. We must resist, without fear of consequences, the cruel and ignorant fanaticism of these apostles.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

EDMUND GOSSE

Games and money

The BBC is breathlessly reporting cases of parents whose bank accounts have been cleared out by their children playing games with in-game purchases.

We are technically savvy but didn’t think to put a password on and my son, who was 12, ended up spending around £700.

It was on his own phone and he managed to download Clash of Clans through a Google Play account, enter his own children’s bank card details and buy lots of in-game items.

It is possible to prevent this. My own children often ask to buy in-game items, which tells me I have somewhat succeeded in training them to ask first. Steam has a PIN code that only I know. The iPad requires my fingerprint before it will take money. And Google Play is set up to require a password. So far, so good.

I installed Mini Golf King on my phone for my son who is five. He knows he’s not allowed to spend money in games, yet this game successfully tricked him into spending £300 on in-app purchases.

[…]

People will say “well, you should be supervising him”. I was! I was in the room.

But the game is a children’s game, rated PEGI 3 [suitable for players aged three and above].

I would allow him to watch a U-rated film and I assumed PEGI 3 games were safe to play with casual supervision.

Now things are getting tricky: user interfaces are hard to get right even when you are trying not to confuse people. I can remember a handful of occasions where I have done something daft with a computer, have been met with no sympathy at all from support staff, but objected that the problem is that the user interface was misleading. There are worthy complaints here.

Now politicians are taking an interest. There is always this instinctive call: The Government should Do Something! I do not see the need. Complain instead to marketplace. Google Play, the Apple App Store and Steam are in a position to enforce user interface standards and they can probably do better with default settings, spending limits, and better-designed family accounts.

Ulster for Beginners – Part IV

A Brief History of Ulster (continued)

In the search for a replacement for Stormont the government came to the conclusion that any scheme had to be acceptable to the constitutional nationalists of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) which had been formed in 1970. After negotiations held at Sunningdale in Berkshire, a power-sharing agreement was reached between the SDLP and the leadership of the Unionist Party which included a council of Ireland.

The Ulster Unionist Party split over the Council of Ireland. In the general election of February 1974 the agreement was decisively rejected at the polls. The government and the parties to the agreement ploughed on regardless. In May 1974, the Ulster Workers’ Council organised a general strike, aimed at bringing down the Council of Ireland. The strike was successful beyond its leaders’ wildest dreams, ending in the collapse of the power-sharing Executive.

[“wildest dreams”?]

In the absence of political stability the IRA campaign continued. Bombings and shootings became an every day event, added to by a new mainland bombing campaign. The government’s response was to pass the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

[Remember that? I don’t save that named persons could be banned from entering Great Britain but be perfectly free to walk around Ulster.

By the way, the timeline here is wrong. Shootings were an everyday event by 1971 and bombings by 1972. The mainland bombing campaign began in 1973.]

Between 1975-6 a constitutional convention was held which came close to agreement but failed. Internment was phased out and the government embarked upon a policy of treating terrorists as ordinary criminals. In 1975 the IRA murdered the British Ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs and in one day in 1979 murdered Lord Mountbatten while he was holidaying in the Republic of Ireland and 18 soldiers of the Parachute Regiment at Warrenpoint.

In 1981, Republican prisoners at the Maze jail demanded political status and began a dirty protest which grew into a hunger strike. Bobby Sands and 9 others died but the government stood firm.

[Hmm. IIRC that’s not quite true. They stood firm until the hunger strike was abandoned and then gave in.]

During the 1984 Conservative Conference, the IRA exploded a bomb in the main conference hotel where the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and members of the Cabinet were staying. In November 1985, the British and Irish government signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in which the Republic of Ireland was given a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland in return for promises of greater security co-operation. The agreement was condemned by Unionists who resigned their seats in protest.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement did little to suppress IRA terrorism. In 1987 they exploded a bomb at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, killing 11. In 1990 they murdered Ian Gow MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher. In 1992 and 1993 the IRA exploded two huge bombs in the City of London. The damage ran into billions.

On 31st August 1994 the IRA declared a ceasefire. On 9th February 1996 they ended it, exploding another huge bomb, this time at South Quay in London’s Docklands. Two men died.

Since 1969 the world has become familiar with the bombings, shootings, beatings, boycotts and expulsions.

[Actually, the world probably wasn’t too familiar with the last three.]

Part III

Samizdata quote of the day

I have a friend, let’s call her Karen. Karen bootstrapped several Portland businesses, including a coffee shop. She walks in one day and the barista, who is trans, says she had a man come in earlier wearing a MAGA cap and is she obliged to serve people like him? Karen asks, did he say something to you? No, says the barista, but he’s a white supremacist. Karen tells her, first, you don’t know that, and second, you cannot discriminate based on the way someone is dressed. And that, Karen thinks, is that, but no, the barista relays the story to another barista we will call Jen, who goes onto Facebook and posts, “My boss Karen is a Nazi.” Karen learns of this while she is on vacation. She calls her manager and tells her to get Jen into the office. Jen may intuit as much, as when the manager says she needs to speak with her, Jen gets on the floor behind the espresso bar and curls into a fetal position. And you might think, if anyone should maybe not be in customer service, it’s Jen, but no, people prove sympathetic to her and the other barista’s fears and start an online inquisition and can Karen prove she is not a Nazi? And should she not be more concerned with the safety of her employees than some random Republican wanting a cup of coffee?

– Nancy Rommelmann, from ‘Portlandization: It can happen to a place near you

Spin off site: The Great Realignment

Samizdata is a site that writes about things from a primarily libertarian perspective (which means different things to different people, of course). But the issue firmly wedged in the minds of many people here is not a libertarian/non-libertarian issue, it is political, and it has split the samizdatistas much as it has split the UK.

Brexit.

Samizdata needs to get back to writing the kind of things it has always done, and will continue to do, but that does not mean the overtly political stuff is not worth saying… just not here. Not on samizdata. After much pondering, I have decided it just isn’t what this site should be about.

And that is why we now have The Great Realignment, an overtly political site in its very early days for all the various things that do not really fit on samizdata. It is not a replacement, it is a fork in our particular road. I believe that we are now entering a period in which many of the assumptions that have underpinned the UK’s political order are no longer true, but the politics we see have not yet adjusted to this uncertain half-glimpsed future. This is what we will be discussing, with a UK focus, but we may well look at similar realignments elsewhere.

Check it out.

Imagine there’s no countries

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine, John Lennon

The Times editorial I am about to quote, like John Lennon’s much-loved song, begins with the word “Imagine”. It describes a little incident, seemingly unimportant to all but those most directly affected, that took in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. At least, Vanuatu calls itself a nation, and it has a flag and a seat at the UN and all the paraphernalia of a nation, but it seems to have decided that it no longer wishes to function as a separate state. A little incident that took place there four days ago gives a preview of what Lennon’s dream of a world where borders did not matter would really be like.

Imagine for a moment that last Friday a charter flight full of police officers from a foreign power landed at Heathrow. Picture those officers then driving to a series of addresses, identifying four British and two foreign citizens and then, declining to tell British authorities on what grounds they were taking this action, detaining them and forcing them on board the aircraft, which then took off. What might we call such behaviour?

This exact scenario was played out just before the weekend in the South Pacific republic of Vanuatu. Vanuatu might be the answer to a quiz question, but though it has a population the size of Hull it is also an independent sovereign country and a democracy. Nevertheless, last week the Chinese government sent officials to Vanuatu and arrested five men and one woman, all of Chinese ethnicity.

That the republic’s government was complicit in these arrests makes the position more and not less worrying. Before the Chinese police arrived it is reported that the six had been held without charge for several days on the premises of a Chinese company. Though the Chinese informed the government that their officers possessed Chinese arrest warrants, neither the islanders nor anyone else has been told what the charges actually are. In spite of this, local police assisted with the accompanying of the detained individuals to the China-bound aircraft.

Almost incredibly the internal affairs minister of Vanuatu has told the press that the reason why the six detainees did not appear before a Vanuatu judge was that they were not charged with any crime in the territory. Presumably if they had been then they would have had their day in court. As it is the minister has, in effect, connived at an abduction of his own citizens by a foreign power almost certainly in contravention of his country’s laws.

The South China Morning Post report on the same story is quite bold to make an explicit link to the protests in Hong Kong against the proposed bill allowing extradition to mainland China, given that the newspaper has itself been subject to pressure from Beijing.

Ulster for Beginners – Part III

A Brief History of Ulster (continued)

During the 1960s a number of complaints were made about Northern Ireland’s government which had been dominated by the Ulster Unionist Party since its inception. The thrust of the allegations was that Unionists had used their power in such a way as to make Catholics second-class citizens. There were a number of specific charges: that local government boundaries had been gerrymandered to the benefit of Unionists, that the local government franchise had not been reformed (again to the advantage of Unionists) and that Unionist local authorities discriminated against Catholics in housing and jobs. Complaints were also levelled at the B-Specials who, it was alleged, were exclusively Protestant. These allegations were denied by Unionists.

In 1967, an organisation calling itself the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was set up to campaign against the alleged abuses of power. It claimed to be a cross-community group: Unionists claimed that it was an IRA front. Whatever the case was the facts are clear enough. The NICRA organised marches which led to conflict with the police and Protestants. After a particularly violent encounter in Londonderry on 5 October 1968, riots became a regular event throughout the province. In August 1969, after the annual (Protestant and unionist) Apprentice Boys’s of Derry parade in Londonderry, there was a riot by Catholics in the Bogside area of the city. Shortly afterwards there was a similar riot in Belfast. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC – the police) lost control and the army was brought in to keep the peace. This was the beginning of the Troubles that continue to this day.

Shortly afterwards the B-Specials were stood down and the RUC were disarmed. The army prevented members of the RUC from patrolling in nationalist areas and allowed the creation of No-Go areas where the “Queen’s writ did not run”.

The IRA used the opportunity to organise. By June 1970 it was making attacks on the Army and in February 1971 it murdered its first soldier. Violence in all its forms appeared to be escalating out of control and, in August 1971, the Stormont government, under Prime Minister Bryan Faulkner, introduced internment or detention without trial. The backlash from the IRA was ferocious. In January 1972, at the end of an illegal march against internment in Londonderry, there was an exchange of gunfire between the army and others resulting in the deaths of 13 civilians.

[I grate at my use of the word “murder”. “Killed” would be better. And when I say “illegal”, “banned” would be better.

The army was absolutely sure it was being fired on. By this time, it was a standard IRA tactic to use rioters as human shields while firing on soldiers. Just as in the killing of Lyra McKee the other day.]

Whatever the facts of the matter, Her Majesty’s Government, moved to abolish Stormont (despite the fact that Stormont had nothing to do with the army action) and established Direct Rule with a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The abolition of Stormont, seen by many unionists as the only institution they could trust, provoked an immediate and bloody reaction. Recruitment to the UVF (no relation to the UVF of 1912) increased and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was formed. These groups began a campaign of sectarian murder.

[Hmm there seems to be a bit missing here. I was told on good-ish authority that the formation of the UDA was in response to sectarian violence from republicans. Although after a while it is difficult to tell who is doing the titting and who the tatting.]

Part II

Update 10/7/19

Actually there really was a bit missing there – there being differences between the published and electronic versions. The published version says, “Protestant paramilitary groups began a campaign of sectarian murder which in one form or another continued until 1994 when most of them declared a cease-fire following that announced by the IRA. (By the early 1990s Protestant paramilitaries were responsible for more killings than the IRA.)”

Oh no! We might not have to overthrow capitalism after all

“Climate change: Trees ‘most effective solution’ for warming” reports the BBC.

Researchers say an area the size of the US is available for planting trees around the world, and this could have a dramatic impact on climate change.

The study shows that the space available for trees is far greater than previously thought, and would reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by 25%.

The authors say that this is the most effective climate change solution available to the world right now.

But other researchers say the new study is “too good to be true”.

I do not know enough to say whether this paper by scientists at the Swiss science and technology university ETH Zurich really is too good to be true. But the paper was published in the respected journal Science, and seems to be being taken seriously by the scientific establishment.

I cannot help remembering that when Tony Abbott was Leader of the Opposition in Australia and he suggested the planting of twenty million trees as a climate change mitigation measure, he was roundly mocked.

It is a measure of how cynical I have become about the entire field that my first thought when I read this report was “why are they letting this be said now?”. Do not let us be consumed by cynicism: the answer to that might honestly be “because that seems to be the way the latest research is pointing”. It would be nice if so. Planting a lot of trees would hurt fewer people than almost any other massive state-backed programme I can envisage.

Ulster for Beginners – Part II

A Brief History of Ulster (continued)

In 1641, at a time of political instability in England and Scotland, there was a rebellion in Ireland against English rule. This led to the deaths of thousands of Protestants and only ended when Cromwell restored order in 1649.

[20 years ago I didn’t know this, but it seems that Protestants in Ulster put up a stout defence.]

In 1688, the Catholic king of Britain, James II, was deposed and came to Ireland to set about recapturing the throne from the new king, William III of Orange. Protestants remained loyal to William and in Londonderry held out for 114 days when they came under siege from James’s forces. The next year, on 1st July 1690, William inflicted a decisive defeat on James at the Battle of the Boyne. The Protestants were safe.

[King of Britain, eh? I think the correct title would have been King of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Were Protestants in any great danger at this time? Well, they certainly thought so.]

While Protestants were safe they were far from equal. While members of the Church of Ireland dominated the Irish parliament, presbyterians were excluded. In 1798, this led to a revolt which nationalists have labelled the “United Irishmen” Rebellion. In reality it was two rebellions, one in Ulster and one in the South. Both were put down but not before southern rebels in Wexford had carried out a massacre of their Protestant neighbours. This tends to undermine the claim that Irishmen were in some way “united”.

[This became known as the Scullabogue Barn Massacre

For those who don’t know Church of Ireland = Anglican = wishy-washy but Protestant.]

During the 19th century there was a growing movement to give Ireland some autonomy in her government. This movement did not gain any significant support in Ulster where Protestants feared that they would end up separated from the empire in a state dominated by the Catholic Church. After two unsuccessful attempts to legislate for Home Rule, an act did pass through the House of Commons in 1913. Ulster Unionists regarded this as a betrayal and resolved to resist the imposition of Home Rule in Ulster with their own army, the Ulster Volunteer Force.

In 1914, just at the moment that a civil war in Ireland seemed inevitable, the First World War broke out and Home Rule was suspended until the end of the war. Impatient for all out independence a small band of Republican extremists led a rebellion in Dublin in Easter 1916. The rebellion was quickly put down but after that Sinn Fein/IRA grew in importance and influence, eclipsing the constitutionalist Home Rulers.

[It is difficult to overemphasise the way that the Home Rule issue dominated politics at the time. It was not unlike Brexit is now.]

In the general election of 1918, Sinn Fein, demanding an all-Ireland republic, all but swept the board in what is now the Republic of Ireland while the Ulster Unionist Party all but swept the board in what is now Northern Ireland. The IRA began a guerilla war against the British presence in Ireland. The UK parliament legislated for two separate parliaments in Ireland, one for the north and one for the south. This was the first time that His Majesty’s Government had accepted that Ulster was different. The IRA refused to accept this settlement continuing its campaign against British forces. After another year of war the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed which created the Irish Free State with dominion status but kept Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom albeit with its own parliament. For all their bombings and shootings, the IRA had achieved virtually nothing which had not already been offered to democratic politicians.

[Well, I suppose dominion is better than devolution. But then again, for how long would dominion have been denied? Of course, I say it’s better but better for whom?]

Unionists wanted to believe that the 1921 settlement had settled things for good; but Irish nationalists had other ideas. Irish nationalists and republicans, simply did not accept the will of the majority in Northern Ireland and demanded that it be incorporated into their state. At the time this was not an uncommon way of thinking, with similar aspirations being held by Hitler and Mussolini.

Although an attempt had been made to incorporate Ulster into the Irish Free State in 1921-22, the IRA being defeated by the Northern Ireland Government, it was not the end of the matter. In 1937, the Free State severed almost all of its links with the United Kingdom, announcing a constitution in which Articles 2 and 3 laid claim to the whole of the island of Ireland.

[You don’t “announce” a constitution do you? But what do you do? Publish? Too weak. Promulgate? Too pompous. Enact? Introduce?]

During the 1940s and the 1950s there were sporadic attempts by the IRA to bring down the Northern Ireland’s government, which by now had based itself at Stormont, on the outskirts of Belfast. Each time these attempts foundered on the twin rocks of internment and effective patrolling by Ulster’s B-Special constabulary.

Part I Part III

Ulster for Beginners – Part I

A few months ago Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland Secretary, revealed that she knew precious little about the unusual conditions that exist in Ulster. With the recent killing of a journalist by some version of the IRA and with the 50th anniversary of the beginning of “The Troubles” coming up, it would be useful to be in possession of a concise explanation of why Ulster is the way it is and how it got that way.

Fortunately, just such an explanation exists. In 1998, the Friends of the Union published an excellent little pamphlet entitled Ulster for Beginners. I know all about its excellence largely because I was responsible for writing it.

Luckily – or unluckily? – I have kept a computerised draft all these years. It’s a bit too long for a blog posting so I have broken it up into chunks. What follows is the first chunk along with comments [in square brackets] by my older – and hopefully wiser – self. I will put up further installments assuming there are not too many objections.

→ Continue reading: Ulster for Beginners – Part I

Samizdata quote of the day

The appeal of Millennial Socialism rests on the delusion that the democratic, bottom-up socialism Millennial Socialists aspire to is a fundamentally novel aspiration, and that nobody in history has ever tried to build anything like this before.

But it is not a new aspiration. This was precisely what Chávez’s and Maduro’s “21st Century Socialism” was also about, which is why it used to be so popular in the West. A moratorium on the V-word would just play into the hands of those who now want to pretend that none of this ever happened, and that “Millennial Socialism” is novel, untried and untested.

So no, I absolutely won’t stop banging on about it, and if you don’t want to hear it, tough luck, because I’ll bore you with it anyway. We shouldn’t stop banging on about Venezuela until the Left stops banging on about socialism.

Kristian Niemietz

Tears before bedtime

“Widdecombe’s ‘outlandish’ EU speech leaves Green MEPs ‘in tears'”, reports Somerset Live.

A Green Party MEP has said that some of her colleagues were left “in tears” after a speech by Anne Widdecombe.

Widdecombe, Brexit Party MEP for the south west, stood up in front of the EU Parliament to give a speech today (July 4) as proceedings got underway following the appointment of Italian left-centre MEP David Maria-Sassoli’s as president.

The speech, branded “outlandish” and “shameful” by the Green Party, was cheered by fellow Brexit Party MEPs and others in the European Parliament.

Related posts: “Noooooooo!” and “Let’s get thrown out of the EU!”

If you can bear to watch the speech in question, Guido has video (TW).